Calling all robots: 6 upcoming films that explore artificial intelligence
From 'Ghost in the Shell' to 'Power Rangers," robotic characters are poised to share the spotlight.
Only a few short years ago, it took a movie ticket to experience the kind of technology many of us now take for granted every day. Need to order a pizza? Maybe you call upon Amazon's Alexa to place the order. Stuck for directions to the best local food market in the area? Siri, Cortana or Google can lead the way. It's even possible to strike up a conversation with a miniature Albert Einstein and reminisce about his various appearances on "Star Trek."
While all of these tasks may seem minor compared to the humanoid, sentient robots fleshed out in Hollywood science fiction, the gap between fiction and reality is quickly closing. Below are just a handful of the films coming out over the next 12 months that may inspire future advancements in artificial intelligence and robotic personal assistants.
'Ghost in the Shell'
Based on the popular Japanese comic of the same name, "Ghost in the Shell" takes place in a futuristic world dominated by technology and artificial intelligence. Produced by Israeli legend Avi Arad and directed by British filmmaker Rupert Sanders, the story revolves around an advanced human cyborg named Major who must stop an evil force from wiping out the technology that powers her abilities.
"Bringing these pages to life is a kind of challenge," American actress Scarlett Johansson, who plays the main cyborg, said in a recent interview. "Because you can’t rip it off the page, it’s totally different. You’re playing it as a ... it’s not really a person, but it’s a human brain, it’s someone who’s having this life experience."
"Ghost in the Shell" offers an interesting take on the future of A.I., choosing to explore firsthand through its cyborg characters what it means to be human.
"There’s a heart in it and there’s a philosophical essence to it and I think that’s what sets it apart from so many of the other films, because so many of them are just about action and jokes," Sanders told Collider. "This is not a funny film, it has a lot of action, but it has introspection and it has philosophy."
"Ghost in the Shell" will be released on March 31, 2017.
'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'
From R2D2 to BB-8, the advanced droids of the "Star Wars" franchise have consistently found their way into the hearts and imaginations of audiences. Throughout the various adventures that have played out over 8 films, we've seen robots of every iteration; including protocol, medical, interrogation, and astromech droids. It's a trend that we fully expect next December's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" to continue.
This new installment, taking place immediately after the events of "The Force Awakens," is being helmed by American director Rian Johnson and his longtime friend Ram Bergman, a prolific Israeli producer. While we're pretty sure all of our favorite droids from the previous films will carry over, only one has so far been confirmed visually. In a recent Instagram, Johnson shared a sneak peek of the editing room for "The Last Jedi," with a certain R2 unit overseeing the work.
"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will be released on Dec. 15, 2017.
'Blade Runner 2049'
A long-awaited sequel to the 1982 sci-fi classic, "Blade Runner 2049" takes place in a dystopian future where bio-robotic androids called "replicants" blend seamlessly with humans. Starring American actor Harrison Ford and Canadian Ryan Gosling, the new film is reportedly set 30 years after the events of the first.
As the original is considered one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve told Deadline that he carefully considered the project.
"It’s very challenging, the biggest artistic challenge I’ve had in my life probably," he said. "Listen, I hesitated a lot before doing it, but when I said yes I committed at 100 percent, and it’s very difficult to talk about it because I’m in the process of doing it, so it’s a bit like asking a hockey player to describe how he will score as he’s going through the other players. It’s a massive challenge."
"Blade Runner 2049" will be released Oct. 6, 2017.
While it's true that Peter Parker doesn't depend upon artificial intelligence to become Spider-Man, the same cannot be said for Iron Man. In a rare treat for Marvel fans, the two superheroes will team up in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," with Tony Stark playing a kind of father-figure role to the young Parker.
"You've seen the billionaire, the scientist, the soldier. Now it's time to see the kid," British star Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man, told The Hollywood Reporter. "And every decision we make on set is based off how would a kid react in this situation, so every fight scene we have is designed in a way that's almost child-friendly, so he never actually punches anyone. It's all done kind of by accident. I think the biggest difference is his youth and innocence."
While we have no idea how much screen time Iron Man will get in this new chapter, you can bet that his wise-cracking A.I. system J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just a Rather Very Intelligent System), a kind of Amazon Alexa on steroids, will make an appearance in battle.
"Spider-Man: Homecoming" will be released on July 7.
A sequel to the 2012 film "Prometheus," "Alien: Covenant" is the latest installment in director Ridley Scott's extraterrestrial horror franchise. While the previous films have always featured some kind of advanced android, "Covenant" will offer something of a twist by featuring two different robots played by the same actor. That challenge belongs to Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender, who most recently starred in the adventure-thriller "Assassin's Creed."
In "Covenant," Fassbender will reprise his role as the android David from the previous film, while also starring as a more advanced synthetic android named Walter. In an interview with Comingsoon.net, the actor says the differences will be clear between the two.
"I think Walter’s a real different kettle of fish," he said. "David was definitely a work-in-progress, somewhat of a prototype I suppose. The elements of him that were the human elements I think people found a little disturbing, so Walter’s more of a straightforward robot. Pretty logical, much more of a servant without the ego."
"Alien: Covenant" will be released on May 19, 2017.
Based on the hit television series from Israeli TV producers Haim Saban and Shuki Levy, "Power Rangers" tells the story of five ordinary teenagers given special powers to save the world from a sinister force.
One of the alien assistants charged with training the Rangers in how to wield their new abilities is a robot called Alpha 5. Voiced by American comedian Bill Hader in the film, Alpha 5 is fully sentient and autonomous, mainly following orders from the galactic sage Zordon (played by "Breaking Bad" actor Bryan Cranston).
What can we expect from this reimagined Alpha 5? While the first trailers for the film indicate he's still as wise-cracking a presence as usual, there are hints that the story will take the Power Rangers in a more mature direction.
"This is as different a reimagining as the ‘Batman’ television series as it became the ‘Batman’ movie series," Cranston told The Huffington Post. "You can’t compare those two, and nor can you compare this movie version of the ‘Power Rangers’ to that television series. It’s unrecognizable for the most part. There are tenets of the folklore that you hold onto for sure, but the inspiration is different, and the sensibility of it, and the approach to the film making is completely different."
"Power Rangers" will be released on March 24.
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